Is infobesity a real "thing"?
Are you careful about what you put in your mouth? Do you read the content of your food diligently? If so, let me tell you why you should be even pickier about what goes into your mind.
If you experience fatigue, difficulties focusing, or have no patience for / have a hard time listening or reading through a longer text, you might be suffering from what is called infoxication, or even infobesity. Unlike mineral or vitamin deficiencies that we can supplement with food additives, these modern-day plagues are caused by information overload and competing sensory stimuli and can take a considerable toll on our health.
Remember how Jamie Oliver was showing us those hidden calories in lattes, afternoon snacks, and salad dressings? Sorry to break it to you, but your information consumption might be even worse than you think. Because it seems fun, educational, and oh-so-relaxing, how could it be wrong? Well, consider this.
On an average day, a working adult easily consumes 54 000 messages in different form. According to eMarketer, the average US adult spends 3 hours and 43 minutes on their mobile devices. That bombards our brains with around 2000 images daily and between 40 and 70 animated images or videos. But why is that bad, you might ask? Aren’t we just becoming smarter, wittier, funnier and happier out of this information profusion?
The answer lies in how our brains work and in this case, less is more. It turns out that information overload not only slows down our productivity, it also impacts our ability to make timely decisions. Stuffed with information stimuli we begin to feel confused, stressed out, and frustrated. We naturally start making mistakes which escalates our anxiety. Simply put, information overload shuts our brains down!
Cognitive impatience is one of the symptoms of an unhealthy information diet. You may have experienced it yourself while talking to other people who just seem to struggle letting you finish your sentences. They either interrupt you or jump to a new topic, or even worse, keep checking their phone or laptop while talking to you. The psychological manifestation of this is extreme irritability, anxiety, discomfort, and even panic attacks.
People who acknowledge they suffer from information overload share that sometimes during the day they have a desire to cover their ears or protect their eyes from sensory stimulation. Some of them need time alone to be able to revert to a task or work overtime to catch up with tasks due to distractions. According to a study by the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the deep focus you had on a task once you have been distracted. Which means that if you are distracted only 5 times a day – you will end up with almost two hours of wasted time to concentrate.
Even your sex life might suffer from competing information stimuli. It’s no wonder that psychologists around the world are measuring a significant downtrend in sexual activity with devices in the bedroom among the culprits. An online study of 1000 Americans commissioned by the bedmaker Saatva found that almost 40% of them bring some sort of internet-connected device to bed with them. About 60% of respondents browse the internet from bed and 24% of them have fallen asleep while doing so.
And while extreme emotional conditions like feeling too excited or "overwhelmed" or experiencing unexplained mood swings and sleep disorders are among the expected outcomes of an information over-exposure, a less expected victim of this is our skin. Information overload is reported to lead to higher levels of normal skin sensitivity to textures, fabrics, clothing labels or other items that get in contact with the skin.
The solution is establishing a mindful information consumption and moderate information diet. First, you should check your current status and honestly assess your information overload risk levels. Then you can take measures to limit your exposure to content and target only topics and media that you consider important. It might appear a long way but it certainly is a shortcut to your well-being and boosting your productivity.
Stay tuned for more on how to determine your current information overload status and what measures you can take to improve it.